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Retirement Looms For EUSD's Mantooth
With 20 years in Escalon and 35 years total in the education field, Dave Mantooth is counting down the days until his retirement is official. Those days now number just a handful, as his final day as Escalon Unified School District Superintendent will be June 30.

The transition process is under way, with new superintendent Ron Costa working with Mantooth to make for a smooth switch from one superintendent to another. Costa comes to Escalon from a post in neighboring Riverbank Unified School District, where he serves as Assistant Superintendent for Business.

"I told Ron if he has questions, I'll be available," Mantooth said of being 'on call' during the early days of Costa's leadership.

Mantooth started his career in education as a teacher in Mariposa.

"I taught history, math, PE, coached, the whole gamut," he said. "I decided after nine, 10 years of teaching to get an administrative credential and first I was an assistant principal at Rohnert Park, I spent three years there."

Mantooth came to Escalon as the high school principal in 1990. After six years in that post, he moved up to assistant superintendent and served 10 years in that role, working with longtime superintendent Bob Wallace. When Wallace retired four years ago, Mantooth took over the top spot.

"I think Bob and I formed a pretty good team and a lot of the things that went on in his superintendency, I worked with him on," Mantooth said.

Among the accomplishments Mantooth is most pleased with are relatively recent additions, including the new facilities at El Portal, Van Allen Elementary and Escalon High School. A gym and multi-purpose rooms were constructed at El Portal, a new multipurpose room, administrative center and classrooms were added at Van Allen and the high school project included a new Performing Arts Center, cafeteria and library-media center.

"They have added a tremendous amount to what the kids and the community can utilize," he explained.

Mantooth was just the fourth superintendent in the 43-year history of the school district, with James Pritchard the first, Jake Klessens the second, followed by Wallace and then Mantooth. He said that type of stability in leadership helps make for a strong district and he's anticipating Costa will continue the tradition.

"There's great community support," Mantooth noted, adding that the school board is also knowledgeable and all parties have been working well together to maintain quality in tough economic times.

"The staff has just been incredible," agreed Mantooth. "The unions have worked well with us."

Most of the teachers that were issued pink slips in March have had those layoff notices recalled, though some positions have been reduced to 80 percent posts from fulltime and there has been some shifting of positions. A five-day reduction in the school calendar, a one-year adjustment approved by the unions, resulted in significant cost savings as well.

"We've had some real encouraging news with our kindergarten enrollment, it's already higher than where we started last year and we usually pick up some kids during he summer," Mantooth pointed out.

That bodes well for state aid money, which will further help the district.

Mantooth was slated to oversee his final board meeting on Tuesday, June 15 and was previously feted at a retirement party.

"I will miss the daily interactions with the staff and kids, that's the thing that keeps you going through the years," he said.

A longtime coach of the Academic Decathlon team and involved as advisor of the Interact Club, Mantooth has been more than just an administrator over the years.

"The kids keep you young, to some extent," he said, adding he has enjoyed working with them in the various clubs and activities.

He plans to still attend sporting events and some school functions, balancing that with retirement and a bit of relaxation. He also said comments made by students at the recent graduation bear out the fact that Escalon provides a well-rounded educational experience.

"No matter the pressures, the small town, small school atmosphere provides kids with lots of opportunities for success, we give them support and guidance," Mantooth said. "They appreciate it when they look back ... they know it's been a good thing."